Elizabeth Ist coat of arms

Architecture of Elizabethan Castles

Picture of the Tower of London

Picture of the Tower of London

Architecture of Elizabethan Castles

Architecture of Elizabethan Castles?
There were no actual castles built during the Elizabethan era. WHY? England had many great existing castles. The architecture of these castles dated back to the Normans and the Medieval period.

The decline of the Feudal system and new weapon technology led to the decline of the English castle.  The Medieval feudal system was headed by the King who ruled England with the backing of the great Nobles and Lords. The Feudal system demanded that each noble showed allegiance by fighting for the King and providing:

  • Trained soldiers to fight for the King
  • Equipment - clothes and weapons - for the soldiers

This led to the monarchy being threatened by powerful nobles. This led to the emergence of men like Warwick the Kingmaker and the War of the Roses. John Dudley was also a powerful noble and attempted to place Lady Jane Grey on the throne of England. From Queen Elizabeth's perspective the last thing she wanted were wealthy nobles building massive power bases - Elizabethan castles. The development of fire arms and canon made castles a far easier target - they could be easily destroyed. The castle was therefore replaced with the 'Palace', a large or splendid residence.

The development of English castle architecture was as follows:
The homes of the wealthy were therefore becoming more comfortable. Problem. Time had moved on to the Tudor era and the English were very nervous of the possibility of another French or even Spanish Invasion. England needed more defence. So Tudor Coastal Forts were  introduced.

The development of English castle architecture was as follows:
  • The Wooden Motte and Bailey Medieval Castles built by the Normans
  • The Romanesque Architecture which featured in the great stone castles of the Normans which featured the Stone Keeps
  • The massive Concentric Castles built by Edward I
  • The changes to Medieval Castles with the emergence of Gothic Architecture
  • The Coastal forts built by King Henry VIII and his son, Edward VI
  • The palatial luxury of the Elizabethan 'Castles' now referred to as mansions or palaces
The history of castles is linked to several major factors:

  • The development of new technology and building methods
  • The development of warfare and new weapons
  • Social and cultural changes
  • Defensive and Offensive requirements
  • Symbolic or political reasons for a castle location

Architecture of Elizabethan 'Castles '
The Renaissance style of Elizabethan architecture had shifted from the pointed, ornate Gothic style to the plainer Renaissance style which was symmetrical. The symmetry was displayed in both the architecture and the gardens. The emphasis was placed on a horizontal rather than vertical line. The crenellations which featured in medieval castles were no longer included for practical defensive or offensive reasons in Elizabethan architecture. Elizabethan mansions emphasised luxury and comfort - not power and dominance. Artificial crenellations purely for show were allowed to be built in private houses, but only with the permission of the reigning monarch.

Elizabethan Architecture - Elizabethan mansions - Hardwick Hall
Upper Class houses of the wealthy followed a similar renaissance style of Elizabethan architecture. Stone and expensive bricks were used for durability and appearance. Classic Greek and Roman architecture was admired by the Elizabethans and sometimes great columns framed the entrances of many great Elizabethan houses and mansions. One of the most impressive houses, or mansions, built during the Elizabethan era which made use of such columns was was the magnificent Hardwick Hall. This great, palatial building was built by the Countess of Shrewsbury, known as Bess of Hardwick (1527 - 1608). Bess was the second most powerful woman in England, next to Queen Elizabeth. Hardwick Hall was truly magnificent, four storeys tall with prolific plaster work. One of its major features was many glass windows. The windows created such a wonderful sight that they were immortalised in and old English Rhyme:

'Hardwick Hall - more glass than wall'

Another great house built during the Elizabethan era between 1555 and 1587 was Burghley House which was built for Sir William Cecil (Lord Burghley).

Elizabethan Architecture
Architecture of Elizabethan Theatres
Architecture of Elizabethan Houses
Elizabethan Age
Elizabethan Era Index

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